New York City is beautiful all year-round but when the sunshine hits the streets, the city comes alive. There are dozens of free events, fun festivals, and exciting attractions for the whole family to enjoy, you’ll never want to leave.
If you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in NYC in summer 2020, check out our list of the top attractions and activities going on this year, including…
- Shearwater Classic Schooner Sail
- Brooklyn Bridge Tour
- Central Park bike ride
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Shakespeare in the Park
- and more…
Heading to the area to celebrate Independence Day? Then check out our post on things to do in NYC 4th of July Weekend.
You should come back towards the end of summer too – if you do, here are some things to do in New York Labor Day Weekend.
Save on Summertime Activities
Regular admission to a number of these attractions are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Choose as you go from popular attractions and save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, some of these special Summer events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Explorer Pass.
Explore Central Park
One of the nation’s most beloved urban parks, Central Park is considered by many the true the heart of Manhattan.
It spans almost 850 acres and is filled with everything from picnic spots and baseball diamonds to works of art. It’s also home to attractions like the Central Park Carousel in the Victorian Gardens, skating rinks, and more. Be sure to check out the famous Ramble or spend an afternoon sitting by the lake.
A delightful way to spend a warm summer day is by going on a bike ride through Central Park. With this full day’s bike rental, you can customize your own day of sightseeing without the hassle of needing a rental car or having to sprint to catch a cab. Hit the paths of Central Park, head to the world-famous Museum Mile, or simply ride wherever your heart desires!
Did you know that Central Park is the most filmed park in the world? Why not spot over 40 famous TV and movie locations on a walking tour, a great way to see the best of the big green space.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History, conveniently located adjacent to Central Park, is a family favorite.
This museum is most famous for its huge collections of dinosaur fossils and striking gemstones, the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, and the Hayden Sphere.
They also have a number of special programs and rotating exhibitions that run during the summer months. Don’t miss “T.rex: the Ultimate Predator, an exhibition closing on August 9 that’s well worth a visit.
Getting In: American Museum of Natural History tickets are available as an option with the New York City Explorer Pass – T-rex: the Ultimate Predator is separately ticketed and is not included with the pass.
Museum of Modern Art
Fans who prefer contemporary to classical will love the MoMA.
This world-famous modern art museum has often been estimated to be the greatest collection of modern art in the world. This is certainly a must-visit for museum and art lovers looking for things to do in NYC in the summer.
Some of the top artists and works of art you’ll see in their collections span the gamut from Picasso to Pollack, including Warhol’s Soup Cans, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and more.
They’ve also got a few special exhibits running this summer, featuring everything from painting to photography and sculpture.
Getting In: MoMA tickets are included on the New York City Explorer Pass.
One of the best ways to explore NYC’s most significant sites is with a cruise. Manhattan is, after all, an island!
Hop aboard a Landmarks Cruise to showcase all the best highlights of the New York skyline. Get a great view (and those all-important photos) of sights like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, Battery Park, Wall Street, and many, many more.
This amazing sightseeing cruise will also take you under a number of bridges and within 100 feet of Lady Liberty for those perfect snapshots. Plus, you will experience panoramic views of both upper and lower Manhattan.
Getting In: Circle Line Sightseeing Landmarks Cruise tickets are available as an option with the New York City Explorer Pass.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is among the best art museums in the world, and for good reason. This top tier museum has some of the most extensive collections of art and artifacts in the world, numbering more than 2 million distinct items.
Highlights of The Met collections include their Ancient Egypt wing, their collection of artifacts from classical antiquity, plus paintings and sculptures from all the biggest European masters.
The Met is also celebrating their 150th birthday this year with various events happening throughout the summer. Highlights include Making the Met, 1870 – 2020, the reimagined British Galleries and a weekend celebration from June 4 – 6 including performances, workshops, a people-powered parade and more!
If you prefer Medieval art and architecture, try their sister museum, the Met Cloisters. Or, for modern and contemporary art enthusiasts, the Met Breuer is an excellent option.
Getting In: Metropolitan Museum of Art tickets, Met Cloisters tickets, and Met Breuer tickets are all available as options with the New York City Explorer Pass. Use your pass for one choice, and then get free same-day admission to the other two!
Shearwater Classic Schooner Sail
Another fun way to explore NYC waterways is which a charming historic cruise. For history buffs and especially boating aficionados, the chance to set sail on the 82-foot schooner Shearwater Classic is a real treat.
Work on your summertime glow as you soak up the sun and enjoy a complimentary drink while you take in this bustling city from a maritime vantage point.
Choose the 90-minute or two-hour journey into the waters off Manhattan, and return refreshed by the sea air and relaxed by the intimate experience.
Getting In: Shearwater Classic Schooner Sail tickets are available as an option with the New York City Explorer Pass.
Brooklyn Bridge Tour
Although there are dozens of tours you can choose from – including TV or movie-themed tours, food tours, and cultural heritage tours – the Brooklyn Bridge walking tour is one of our favorites.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and into the trendy DUMBO neighborhood for great views and fun shopping and dining opportunities.
Getting In: Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO Walking Tour tickets are available as an option with the New York City Explorer Pass.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
If you love the great outdoors but prefer the feel of a cultivated garden, then you’ll delight in a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Be sure to check out the “Plants in Bloom” section of their website before your visit; it will highlight the plants that are at their finest so you know what to look out for.
This gorgeous collection of flora is also conveniently located next to the prestigious Brooklyn Museum, which features fascinating and inspiring exhibits from around the globe. Combine visits to both into one educational day!
Another fun option if you love nature and botanical gardens is the New York Botanical Garden, nestled in the Bronx.
NYC Food Tours
Many people — and certainly New Yorkers themselves — think that NYC cuisine is among the best in the world.
With its diversity of culinary experiences and cultural offerings, there’s so much to taste. It’s nearly impossible to get a sense of NYC’s real dining scene on your own.
That’s why a guided Food on Foot Tour is a fun idea! It allows you to sample a wide variety of New York delights, with a focus on cuisine, neighborhood, or type of meal.
Try the World Famous Sweet Tooth Tour, get your fix on the Ice Cream You Scream, join the Midtown Mix away from the typical tourist haunts or take part in the East Village Variety with six delicious stops. There are so many options!
Getting In: New York Food on Foot Tour tickets are available as an option with the New York City Explorer Pass.
Museum Mile Festival
Fifth Avenue, 82nd – 105th Streets
June 9, 2020
Love museums? Then you won’t want to miss the Museum Mile Festival, which offers free admission to some of the city’s top museums for one day only. It’s now celebrating its 42nd year!
Nine participating institutions across 23 blocks include the Guggenheim, the Met, the Africa Center, the Jewish Museum, and more.
Getting In: The Museum Mile Festival is free to enjoy.
Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival
Various venues in BK
Dates TBC 2020
This event is an annual showcase of current hip-hop artists plus artists who have influenced the genre.
You’ll also find fun family activities, a film festival, hip-hop exhibition, informative lectures, and food and clothing vendors.
Don’t miss the “Brooklyn’s Finest” gallery. It showcases artwork inspired by legendary Brooklyn-based artists including the one and only Biggie Smalls.
Getting In: The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival is separately ticketed and is not included with the New York City Explorer Pass.
SummerStage Concert Series
Dates TBC 2020
For over 30 years, this prestigious free concert series has featured a diversity of performances from theatrical shows to musical performances from hip-hop to opera to folk and everything in between.
Events are rain or shine, so don’t forget to bring a blanket or umbrella.
Held each year in Central Park since 1986, SummerStage is an arts and culture festival for locals and visitors alike.
The festival was designed to serve as a public resource to enrich the lives of New Yorkers. Today it continues to be a great summer activity for New Yorkers of all ages.
Getting In: SumerStage Concerts are free to attend, although select benefit concerts do require tickets (not included with the New York City Explorer Pass).
Shakespeare in the Park
Delacorte Theater, Central Park
May 19 – August 8, 2020
A perennial favorite with the locals, this free theater series brings the Bard’s greatest works to life each year. Complete with a charming outdoor setting.
This year’s plays are Richard II (from May 19th until June 21st) and As You Like It (from July 14th until August 8th).
Getting In: Shakespeare in the Park performances are free.
There you go. A few things to do in NYC in the Summer, including some special events, and other seasonal activities in June, July, August, and September.
Please note, the Summer events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not available with the New York City Explorer Pass.
We hope you consider adding some of these fun ideas to your summer vacation itinerary.